Ten years ago, Matt Kulig walked into a big box home improvement store. After 20 minutes of fruitless searching for a surge protector, asking three employees for help, and being led to three incorrect locations, his patience was spent and he was on the verge of retail rage.
Fortunately, Kulig was able to channel his frustration into innovation by co-founding Aisle411, a mobile indoor mapping and location platform. The serial entrepreneur (he’s now working on his 10th startup) recently shared his story with Executive MBA (EMBA) students at Olin.
The Aisle411 app allows retailers to offer their guests accurate navigation throughout a store. In addition to navigation, it shares information on specials and other helpful data to enhance a customer’s experience. The app also tracks customers’ behavior to provide store owners with valuable insights on shopping patterns.
Today, St. Louis-based Aisle411 serves over 14,000 stores across the globe including Walgreens, Supervalu and Schnucks. They are able to do this thanks to partnerships with key businesses such as Google and Philips.
The EMBA students were all ears when Kulig said, “one can start a company from anywhere – yes, even the Midwest.” Aisle411’s mission is to “Uber-fy” the shopping experience.
Kulig shared 8 entrepreneurial lessons with WashU’s EMBA students:
- People Matter. You should like the people you work with.
- Networking Matters. Even for the extroverts, you “gotta do it.”
- Serendipity Happens. There is no such thing as good luck. There is such thing as opportunity which generally occurs after ideas and people collide.
- Don’t Wait For Things To Happen. Make them happen.
- It’s All About Selling. When you are an entrepreneur, whether you like it or not, you are in sales. Everyone you talk to is a potential investor, customer or storyteller.
- Manage Risk. Do not fear it.
- Everything is Negotiable.
- Millions of Ideas Happen, But Few Come to Life. Not all entrepreneurs have an original idea. But most people don’t end up executing.
EMBA student Morgran Crena said, “What I took home from Matt Kulig’s talk was how he managed the ups and downs as Aisle411 grew. As a serial entrepreneur, he clearly has a passion for start-ups and his work in the community shows his dedication to help others. A couple times he invited students to speak with him afterwards to discuss their ideas. When I met with him, he gave practical advice about potential pitfalls and was encouraging.”
The Executive MBA program, as well as student-run organizations, benefit from guest speakers throughout the year who bring real-world journeys to the classroom and add an extra dimension to Olin’s research-based learning.